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27 October 15 words: Nick Parkhouse
We review the latest James Bond adventure, following 2012's Skyfall
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To say that the 23rd instalment of the James Bond series was a tough act to follow is something of an understatement. 2012's Skyfall was a huge critical and commercial success, becoming the most successful film ever at the UK box office and winning two Oscars on its way to a huge worldwide profit.

With Daniel Craig returning as 007, Eon Productions have also assembled the same team responsible for the success of Skyfall for the new episode, Spectre. With everyone from director Sam Mendes to composer Thomas Newman back on board, no expense has been spared in attempting to make this new instalment the biggest and best Bond film ever. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in a huge pre-credits sequence in which Bond causes havoc during Mexico City's Day of the Dead festival. Stylish, funny and with hundreds of extras, it signals that the franchise is back to lavish spending after the product placement fuelled semi-austerity of Skyfall.

This big-budget approach continues throughout with expensive cars destroyed in high speed chases, a globetrotting plot that requires our blue-eyed assassin to travel to locations as far afield as Rome and Tangier and plenty of big names in a starry cast.

Once the pre-credits sequence is out of the way, Spectre settles into the traditional 007 pattern. All the elements are here - beautiful women, foreign locations and a trail of clues leading to the bad guy - but we're also treated to some classic old-school Bond moments. A train fight sequence is reminiscent of Connery's scrap in From Russia With Love whilst a high speed chase down the Thames has echoes of the opening moments of The World Is Not Enough.

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As well as throwing in some lovely Fleming in-jokes - a safe house named Hildebrand among them - Spectre is also as funny a Bond outing as we've seen with Craig in the lead role. There are some genuinely great one-liners here with many of the best going to Ben Whishaw who has quickly become a firm favourite in the role of Q.

There's much here to like. Daniel Craig is once again terrific in the central role - arguably now the very best Bond - while Lea Seydoux is excellent as Dr Madeleine Swann, a character with much more to offer than a traditional Bond girl. Christoph Waltz does a solid job as bad-guy Franz Oberhauser while Andrew Scott is an excellent addition as the oleaginous civil servant Max Denbigh whose mission is to close down the 007 programme.

Indeed, it's here that Spectre has plenty of interesting things to say about the role of the intelligence networks in modern society. A key scene in which Ralph Fiennes' M challenges Denbigh about the role of a trained agent - 'a licence to kill is also a licence not to kill' - spells out the writers' discomfort at a world where surveillance is everything and a drone can do the job of a field agent from thousands of miles away.

The film ties up a number of loose ends from the last three films and, unlike many of the older Bond films which can be viewed on an entirely stand-alone basis, Spectre does reward some level of knowledge of the events from Casino Royale onwards. While it can clearly be enjoyed by anyone, going in with a refreshed knowledge of the events of the last three films is likely to be a help.

Spectre is not a perfect film - at 148 minutes it does feel a little laboured on occasions and I remain unconvinced by Sam Smith's theme - but it is another extremely well made and engaging spy thriller. While it feels less gripping than Casino Royale and less emotional than Skyfall, it's funny, beautifully plotted and features some genuinely stand-out moments.

Considering that the Bond franchise is over half a century old, the fact that new instalments are still this good is to the huge credit of everyone involved. Spectre perhaps doesn't quite hit the heights of the very best 007 films - at least not on first watch - but it is still a hugely enjoyable and impressive addition to the series.

Spectre is now showing in all Nottingham cinemas.

James Bond Official Site

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